Just days after we noted that people in South Korea saw bitcoin as their "only chance of escape" from their social status, it looks as though non-fungible tokens are also catching on in Southeast Asia.
At least that was the topic of a new report by Nikkei, which took at look at how skeptics and believers are clashing head-to-head about NFTs, whether they have any value and whether or not they could be the future of asset ownership and finance.
"NFTs are indeed changing the lives of some Southeast Asians" the report notes, with some people using them to earn extra income. One such person is Gilbert Jalova, who has been buying and selling digital assets in a game called Axie Infinity. He can earn up to $550 a month doing so, the report notes, which is "more than he makes in his regular job".
Jalova said: "It's a huge help to us and at the same time, it has become our family bonding."
The report estimates that more than 80% of Axie Infinity's player base comes from emerging economies where it is tough to find work or where inflation has run rampant.
"People are turning to these games as a way to supplement their income or as an alternative means of employment," one Filipino game developer said.
Riky Candra, a 20-year-old university student in Pekanbaru, said: "I've managed to earn a total of around 10 million rupiah ($700) in the year that I have been playing. I'm able to spend that on daily campus needs, such as books or other equipment, and I tend to set aside some for deposit as future assets."
Trung Nguyen, co-founder of the game's developer said an NFT is a way "to represent objects that are unique in nature. So it's a very good fit with game characters and game assets."
Artists in Southeast Asia are also cashing in on NFTs. One artist, who goes by the name Monez, sold his first NFT artwork in March of this year for 0.8 ETH, or about $1200. "In the real world ... people buy the first painting from the painter, which is usually very cheap, and can sell it for double the price, but the original artist is still poor because we get [only the first payment]," he said.
But there is still some skepticism about NFTs looming. Naohito Yoshida, founder and CEO of Digital Entertainment Asset, pointed out the lack of liquidity: "Liquidity in the NFT market could be a potential risk. If someone buys NFTs for purely collection purposes, there won't be much of a problem. But if people are buying for investment purposes, then low market liquidity will be an issue, as it means you will not be able to sell it when you want."
And there are already "signs that liquidity may be drying up, or that the NFT bubble is bursting," Nikkei writes. While $101 million of NFTs sold on May 3, that number has dropped to about $2 million per day by the end of may.
Poltak Hotradero, business development manager at the Indonesia Stock Exchange, concluded: "For the digital natives of the younger generations, it will be easy. But for older generations, I don't think they can appreciate NFTs [on a] par with tactile arts which they can see and touch."